Sunday, 24 March 2013

Yinka Shonibare MBE: Fabric-ation, Yorkshire Sculpture Park 27th February 2013

It seems a while since I was last at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, last time I drove, in glorious warm sunshine. This time I caught the train in cold but again, sunny weather and was ferried in style to a private bloggers view organised by Emma the lovely Culture Vulturess. The show this time around couldn't have been more different to the YSP's normal fare. Instead of steel, stone and wood, we were almost immediately faced with bright colourful textiles thanks to the UK's most extensive show to date by this British-Nigerian artist.

As a textile artist myself, I had already come across Yinka Shonibare's interesting take on the Dutch-made faux-batik textiles that ended up becoming adopted as the cloth of choice of nineteenth century West Africa. A casual observer might assume that the brightly patterned fabric was native to Africa and Yinka uses it to great effect in virtually everything he does, from film, to sculpture and photography.

The leitmotif of the fabrics, variable as they are is at once a thread that gathers the exhibition at YSP together and yet at the same time raises troubling thoughts about the emperor's new clothes. I should say right here that I loved the exhibition, but the friend I came with, an experienced dress-maker, absolutely hated it, focussing on the fact that very little of what we saw was actually crafted by the artist himself. That we had a good long argument about it on the train home I think is in fact a tribute to the artist's ability to provoke and stimulate so I wouldn't let this put you off visiting and making up your own mind!

So, back to the show...curator Sarah made us most welcome and provided an in-depth narrative about each piece as we were shown round. If I had a criticism, it was that we didn't have enough time to simply observe in silence and make up our own interpretations. We learned that Yinka had chosen to explore issues of African authenticity from his time at art college, having first of all believed the Dutch cloth was traditional along with everyone else he realised that it was the perfect vehicle for him to explore all sorts of issues around 'africanness'.

The floating space capsule in the YSP foyer with its umbilically-attached astronauts in their natty fabric space-suits for instance, is a statement about the invisibility of African in the USA vs USSR space race. We moved on into the Underground Gallery and met with his 'Food Faeries' - headless dancing children in Victorian outfits and feathery wings. They had nets full of fruit slung over their shoulders and reference a myriad of ideas from the Victorian British Empire's annexation of the world's resources to the food inequalities that persist today and the children that suffer most as a result of these inequalities and whose agonised faces appear on our televisions in a bid to get us to pay for the food aid that will be flown back out to them in times of famine. There is also the idea that for most western consumers, the food they eat might as well be brought to the supermarket by faeries for all the interest they have in the source of what they stuff in their shopping trolleys.

Cannonball Heaven 2011. Courtesy the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London
We moved on to the first room with its Nelson theme. From Trafalgar Square to HMS Victory, you couldn't really pick a more obvious symbol of Britishness and Yinka has clearly enjoyed subverting all that British stiff upper-lip kiss-me-Hardy stuff. We are treated to more headless figures ramming fabric shot down ship's cannons all clothed in Yinka's trademark dazzling fabrics now fashioned into very authentic looking eighteenth century styles. Around the walls are Yinka's take on the classic death bed scene painting from Chatterton to da Vinci, but again subverted by both the fabrics and also the non-white faces of characters inserted into the well-known scenes. They were in fact hyper-real photographs, glowing with colour and large scale in a rather histrionic way.

Fake Death Picture (The Suicide - Leonardo Alenza), 2011. Courtesy the artist and James Cohen Gallery, New York, Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

Back out in the corridor the headless figures were replaced with even more disturbing figures with taxidermy heads of foxes and a calf, carrying golden guns (a Saddam Hussein reference apparently) called Revolution Kids. As someone who finds the recent use by several artists of taxidermy specimens rather unpleasant and at the very least, disrespectful, I didn't really enjoy looking at these objects although I was interested in the subject matter which was the youthful leaders of both the Arab Spring and the London riots... spot the Blackberry phone...our irrational fear of half-human feral kids was underlined by the use of the ultimate urban survivor, the fox, placed on the bodies of French Revolutionaries.

Revolution Kid (Fox Boy), 2012. Courtesy the artist and Collection Museum Beelden aan Zee, Den Haag- Scheveningen (The Netherlands). Acquired with the generous support of the BankGiro Loterij.

Gallery 2 was full of aliens in Da Vinci style flying machines, part of what we were told was Yinka's mission to amuse as well as confront. Gallery 3 had a huge painting called 'Black Gold' which referred to the exploitation of oil, a current source of conflict in Nigeria. And on we went, past a kaleidoscope of colour and  big questions, quite exhausting thinking about it now, but from the notes I made on the day, utterly  engaging, and ending up with a mysterious film of eighteenth century dancers and a murder, replayed over and over again, sometimes backwards, sometimes forwards with all the oddness that implies. At this point I realised I had begun to see the Yinka fabrics as no longer cheap market stall cottons but as gorgeous plumage worn by human birds of paradise. I wondered if that was in the end the effect that Yinka wanted - that a white Western viewer would begin to see these cheap fabrics through the eyes of the Africans who wore them with pride and delight and as symbols of their wealth as well as their joy.

As a postscript I should like to recommend that people pop upstairs in the main building to see Yinka's collaged drawings. They have a lightness of touch and beauty which serve as a wonderful place to actually start your viewing. If you have any doubts about the artist's skills then see these and believe.

Yinka Shonibare MBE: Fabric-ation continues at YSP until 1st September 2013. Further details here

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

'ReCollections' Craven Museum & Gallery, Skipton 23rd Feb 2013

A new year, and a nice new show at my local gallery. The main artist Roo Waterhouse has worked with historic toy collections in Halifax and Burnley museums and used them to inspire conversations with community groups. Each of her unframed oils on canvas explores a different toy era and is displayed alongside selected quotes from participants in her workshops and museum cases full of toys and games from a variety of eras. There was some fun to be had spotting items from one’s own youth, I was a particular fan of Britain’s farm models.

The paintings themselves have a rather eerie atmosphere, they have flat, smooth surfaces and are painted from a very low ‘toy’s-eye’ viewpoint or perhaps a child lying on their tummy? The perspective comes across a little oddly perhaps because of this. I couldn’t quite decide whether this oddness was deliberate or simply because the paintings weren’t well-drawn. They are certainly strange to look at, moments frozen in time with the toys looking as if they are actually living things, caught unawares – there are of course no actual children in any of the paintings. The fun, noise and excitement to be had from playing is entirely missing, almost as if these are archival records of a past civilisation now dead and gone.  I wondered if this was as a result of the objects actually being from museum collections? The title of the show is of course a play on the idea of museum collections being used to recollect the past

By contrast, the wooden automata by Lisa Slater were anything but dead. Adults visiting the show (and there were plenty in when I dropped by) were gleefully turning the little handles making a whole herd of bristly-maned birch-wood mules chomp and nod and twirl their tails with gay abandon. A lovely sight, and such fun! Mounted on the wall were some rather darker objects ranging from a spinning rack of well-used wooden spoons to shoe-stretchers that played a tune. Even better were the no-doubt Quay brothers-inspired porcelain dolls’ heads spinning around in their little dark boxes, eyeless sockets staring at nothing. I really coveted the ‘Opera Singer’ made from reclaimed bits of carved wood turned by magic into a rising and falling costume.

The design sketches accompanying the centrepiece horse and rider model showed that the artist is no slouch with a pen either which impressed me even more. The fact that all the objects can be played with and are well-made enough to be surviving so far is wonderful too.

The show is on until 6th May 2013
More details

Monday, 30 April 2012

The Quay Brothers at Hyde Park Picture House, Leeds 24 April 2012

I came across the amazing stop motion animations by the Quay brothers while researching my MA in Contemporary Applied Arts a couple of years ago. I have an abiding interest in the dusty forgotten corners of the human world, the artefacts and dirt that accumulate underneath and behind things which have a life of their own just out of the corner of your eye, so coming across the extraordinary underground world of their film 'The Street of Crocodiles' was a mind blowing revelation. When I found out that the twins would be presenting four of their films on the big screen at the Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds this month I could hardly believe my luck. The event was a taster for the much anticipated Overworlds and Underworlds event that the brothers are orchestrating for the Leed's Cultural Olympiad next month (details below).

Thanks to the ever wonderful Emma of Culture Vulture I swung a ticket for the film show and so found myself once again entering the magical, frightening, utterly unique world of the Quay brothers.

The first film was my favourite, 'The Street of Crocodiles' and I find it hard to describe how overwhelming the experience is of seeing this on a large screen in a darkened auditorium. I also find it very hard to put into words what the piece is about, I always feel that there is a meaning just out of reach and that if only I concentrated hard enough, and my brain worked fast enough, I'd grasp it. Sadly I never do, but for me, in the end, it's all about the marvelous dirty corners and grimy glass and my fascination with the life of the objects that the brothers manipulate: the dandelion clock, the rusty screws that dance and spin, the creepy porcelain dolls heads with the glowing eyes and the endless string running around pulleys from and to an unknown dark place. I have seen resonances of this piece in several places including some well known advertising campaigns. Most of my friends have never heard of the Quay brothers but they will certainly have seen work influenced by their unique vision.

The second film was 'Stille Nacht' which I had not seen before although I remember seeing a room set from it in their fabulous 'Dormitorium' exhibition in the Leeds Town Hall crypt last Autumn. This is the one with the magnet and the dancing iron filings and was at once joyous and scary with the battered doll's head peering out at us from the screen in giant scale.

The third film was a more recent one called 'Maska' and unusually seemed to have a narrative with its nightmarish story of a 'woman' created frankenstein-like in a laboratory, brought to life and female gender in order to seduce an enemy of 'the king', only it turns out 'she' is a praying mantis-like monster whose purpose is to assassinate this enemy. There were some amazingly richly saturated shots of the 'palace' interior and stormy seas and lightning lit skies outside. A thoroughly disturbing story of pursuit and death unfolds against this backdrop.

The final film was 'In Absentia' which combined live action with stop motion animation and a terrifyingly atonal music score. Again a story of sorts is involved, this one a real life one of a woman in an insane asylum who wrote endless undelivered letters to her husband pleading to be released. Being a Quay brothers production we saw the fate of all the broken pencil leads, apparently danced or raged over by a little demon or god of broken pencils, who collects them up and crushes them into staining graphite pools. Underneath the woman's chair, a sea of pencil shavings builds up and we see the woman's hands blackened with pencil lead in uncomfortable close up as she laboriously attempts to write her futile letters and over it  the soundtrack with its wailing, sobbing and hysterical laughter. About as close to the endless pain of insanity as I ever want to get.

The lights came up and we all sat a little shocked and considerably awed for a few moments. We were then treated to a Q & A session with the men themselves. They are notoriously hard to interview and for a while it looked like we were only going to get monosyllabic answers as they were unsuccessfully probed about what Overworlds and Underworlds was going to look like. However things began to warm up after some intelligent (and brave) questioning from the audience and we were treated to a tiny insight into the minds of these incredibly thoughtful artists. I was left feeling like I'd been in the presence of greatness and with a strange desire to learn more about phenomenology, whatever that is!

Roll on Overworlds and Underworlds, Leeds city centre 18 - 20 May 2012. I am clearing my diary for the whole weekend. Find out what little there is to know so far at
Who cares though - whatever happens it will be the most extraordinary thing to hit Leeds in a very very long time. Get ready!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

'Five Truths' video installation, Howard Assembly Rooms, Leeds 13th Feb 2012

I was lucky enough to visit this intriguing piece of work on its opening night and the introductions from the Opera North and Victoria and Albert Museum personnel really helped set the scene. Up to that point I'd had no real idea what it was I had come to see - exciting in itself - and the rest of the experience was based on a similar level of ignorance, but in a thoroughly involving way. I found out that the V&A collect performing arts materials and that this project came about from research into a production of Hamlet directed by Stanislavski. No film of the performance survived and this led to a consideration of the 'truths' around theatrical performances. There can never be a right or a wrong production but every director endeavours to bring a new interpretation to even a well-known play like Hamlet.

The result of this research is 'Five Truths' - five performances of a single scene by five different directors, each one showing Ophelia descending into madness and played stunningly by the same actress Katie Mitchell. The five performances were videoed and then shown on two screens each, within a darkened room.

Needless to say, having entered this magical dark space the effect of these screens playing out such a harrowing scene was mesmerising, confusing and at times distressing. I found myself unsure how to view the work, standing in the middle and just glancing around or concentrating on one performance at a time. In the end, knowing I was to blog about the event I chose the latter, but of course I couldn't ignore the other performances going on around me. The almost silent and internalised Stansilavski interpretation kept being interrupted by the heart-rending wailing of Grotowski's Ophelia descending in a shuddering Bedlam of madness.

Each performance ended with the actress drowning herself and this immediately took the performance away from the stage production to the filmic since I'm sure Ophelia's drowning occurs off stage. Our images of the event come from the cinema or even pre-Raphaelite art. This raised the question of how well I knew the play, clearly the Brecht performance had substituted some modern language about credit cards and other financial stuff for Shakespeare's words and I then began to notice other alterations and stretching of the original school texts I studied. What of course I couldn't know was how representative of the styles of the different directors these films were, since I assume they all directed stage plays rather than film versions.

An altogether fascinating experience then, a wonderful combination of the visceral and the intellectual. I came away wanting to know more about the history of theatre direction and also remembering some of the live performances of Hamlet I have enjoyed over the years including one in Bulgaria in a floodlit castle patrolled by policemen carrying guns!

'Five Truths' continues until 25 February 2012 and there is also a 'Who Is Ophelia' installation trail around Leeds which looks rather good. Details here

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Spring Exhibition at The Hepworth, Wakefield 8th February 2012

I was absolutely delighted to get Culture Vulture's invite to this bloggers preview at The Hepworth  as I have been itching to visit this wonderful new venue ever since it opened to such acclaim last year. I am pleased to say that the gallery did not disappoint and we were all made to feel most welcome as we gathered to view their new spring exhibition. After a short but heartfelt greeting from Simon Wallis the director we were taken on a guided tour of the three gallery spaces given over to the work of artists Ben Rivers, David Thorpe and Heather & Ivan Morison. Frances, the Head of Collections I think, explained that for this new show they had decided to try something different by inviting these four artists to show across the three temporary gallery spaces with work which while very different created a dialogue across the spaces through the intertwined themes of utopian, post-apocalyptic societies.

We began with the remarkably crafted work of David Thorpe with its overt references to the theories of the Arts and Crafts movement and rejection of contemporary fine art practices where artists remove themselves from the actual making of their work, employing armies of technicians to realise their visions instead. We heard that David uses traditional techniques to paint, manufacture and build his pieces but is all too aware that by doing so he lays his work open to being rejected as 'fine' art. The decorated boxes on legs shown here are like creatures that bristle against such opinions, one gives out a warning hum, while another has a small hole cut down to its core from where a bright white light shines representing the pure soul that all such hand-crafted items have. The attention to detail was clear although the leather cutwork decoration and the friezes of glazed tiles were fooling no-one who looked closely, they mimicked historic styles but could never be exact reproductions. Immersion in the process of making seems to be the key to these pieces, allowing the artist to experience the pleasure of producing good work, well-made just as Ruskin preached. The work thus becomes an active expression of these utopian principles.

In the next gallery we glimpsed a short section of Ben River's film  'Slow Action' with its wonderfully eerie vision of post-apocalyptic human communities, isolated and evolving in separate directions. Masked, paint-daubed humans postured and danced in a variety of exotic island locations. We didn't get to hear the accompanying soundtrack but the Lord of the Flies vibe was quite powerful enough. The use of glowing 16mm film stock added to the feeling I had that we were watching a historic ethnographic study rather than a future world as was suggested by the artist himself who kindly left off setting up his work to chat to us about the ideas behind the film. We heard that inspiration came from a commission to celebrate Charles Darwin's anniversary where he had learned about the importance of the study of isolated populations of animal species on islands to Darwin's theories of evolution.

In the third and final gallery, we entered yet another strange world, this one created by Heather & Ivan Morison. Although it was still in progress of construction, what we saw was a collection of seemingly disparate rather Dali-esque sculptures and giant friezes which together were to form a stunning whole. What we were in fact seeing and hearing was an interpretation of the science fiction novel 'Ice' by 20th century British author Anna Kavan. Pieces in the room represented characters in the story which confusingly blends fiction with the author's own life story. A giant illuminated balloon anchored to a stool made of iron that looked like wood, represented a Child lost to the author but also part of the novel. A huge black broken square painted on the wall represented a male character blackened through fire and known as the Warden while a silvery block painted in multiple layers on the adjoining wall was the female character, the 'purest of forms'. Ivan Morison explained to me about how the black and white pigments used came from burnt and ground up animal bones, mixed with soot taken from the chimneys of Wakefield houses. Other items in the exhibition were made from cement mirroring the cement used to clad The Hepworth's facades and chalk gathered in the artists' home town of Brighton - linking and earthing the pieces into both their actual and their artistic milieu.  We heard that water will eventually pour from the ceiling and that gallery staff are to be involved in puppet performances of the story at intervals during the exhibition. A quite extraordinary tour de force even in the state we saw it in.

It was a fitting end to a delightful and inspiring evening. I would suggest that the show could stand repeat visits to truly appreciate all its subtelties and to unravel both the individual artistic stories and to grasp the links between them, the reward will be images and concepts that will stay with you for a very long time.

The show continues until 10th June 2012 and entrance is free. Further details here.

Many thanks again to the Culture Vulture for organising the event and to the staff and artists at The Hepworth who so freely gave of their time - it was much appreciated.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Northern Art Prize, Leeds Art Gallery 21 November 2011

Sarah Brown welcomes us
Once again and after a bit of a mad dash for the train, I found myself attending a blogger's preview event in the company of social media specialists all organised by The Culture Vulture. This time we gathered in the glorious tiled hall at Leeds Art Gallery before being introduced to our host for the evening, Curator of Exhibitions, Sarah Brown. As one of the selectors for the Northern Art Prize she was perfectly placed to walk us round the work of the four shortlisted artists on display in the groundfloor galleries.

As an applied artist I usually find myself a little intimidated by the cutting edge of contemporary art but helped by Sarah's lucid explanations of each artist's motivation and working methods I really enjoyed our look round. The show wasn't due to open for several days so we saw some of the work in the process of being readied for display so this review is of necessity a little incomplete.

Richard Rigg 'Some Rest on Six Occasions' Detail
We started with Richard Rigg and his two telegraph poles whose tarry aroma filled the main entrance hall and which disappeared into the gloom of the upper floors. I always have a problem with artists who take unmodified, found objects and present them as art. Even Duchamp's urinal had a fake signature after all. Rigg's oddly titled work "I forgot what was said [etc]" served to make us crane our necks upwards and marvel at its height and wonder at the effort needed to install it but I think we needed to see it lit from above to fully appreciate its function of making us appreciate the architectural spaces of the gallery. It was a slightly disappointing start but the work we saw in the next gallery space more than made up for it. Here we saw four wildly different pieces all distinguished by the artist's remarkable mastery of the skill needed to make them. I am a huge fan of Rachel Whiteread and Rigg's hollow cast of a Victorian coat hook reminded me of her House with its evocative cast of empty spaces. As curator Sarah explained, it was as if the white box of the gallery space was hooked up and hung from the outside causing me to have a brief but rather dizzying vision of an alternate dimension beyond the walls of the gallery where we were all part of the exhibition! This surreal state of mind continued as we began to really look at the two pieces of furniture in the room. Both were exquisitely crafted but have no practical function. They made me smile with pleasure at the joke, carried out with such deadpan skill that you had to look twice before you saw the six joined chairs were impossible to sit on and the two mahogany writing tables one on top of the other could not be separated. A quick glance at a dark and rather mysterious cyanotype of a complex rope knot left me wanting to know more - always a good sign.

Leo Fitzmaurice 'Horizon' detail
In the next space we were confronted by the remarkable sight of about 20 landscape paintings from the gallery's own collection jammed one against the other in a choppy line from one end of the room to the other. This was the creation of Leo Fitzmaurice and it wasn't until Sarah pointed it out that I saw that he had lined up the horizon line of each painting all along the wall and that the subject matter progressed from early morning to night time. It was a truly clever and very playful way of getting you to really look again at these rather run-of-the-mill 18th and 19th century landscapes with their dramatic clouds, immobile cattle and languid peasants. By placing them so close to each other one's eye is naturally drawn right out to the edge of each work, parts that are normally unexamined and the flow of horizon and time gave an extraordinary sense of expansiveness as well as pointing up the shared cliches of these works. Fitzmaurice's companion piece, a slide show of modern urban landscapes showing inside a shipping container-like room wasn't working but I can imagine the juxtaposition will add real impact.

James Hugonin 'Binary Rhythm 2' detail
James Hugonin's complex and mind-bendingly detailed geometric paintings were our next stop. Sarah spent some time talking about the labour involved in the precise placing of each of around 55,000 coloured marks by the artist who will spend up to a year on each large piece. Fragments of the artist's working drawings showed the complex mathematics behind each piece with their tiny pencilled numbers and finely drawn grid lines. Stepping back, the paintings shimmer and seem to be revealing patterns which fade away the harder you look and I think I should have spent longer simply exploring this effect. Curator Sarah used the word 'hedonistic' at one point but after hearing about the artist's practice I saw neither joy nor pleasure, only obsession. I was strongly reminded of the slightly sick feeling I had when I saw the thousand upon thousand of tiny human figures hand-cut from red tissue paper by Chinese artist Lu Shengzhong in his 2007 installation 'Little Red Figure'. It's a feeling I find quite hard to analyse - I want to be impressed by the hours and hours of concentrated effort but I am also horrified at the sheer madness of the desire of the artist who undertakes such a herculean task. I also wonder who carries out all the domestic duties needed to support this sort of intensity of purpose. I think in the end I would have been better not knowing about how the pictures were made, thus giving me the chance to simply enjoy them on a more emotional level.

I had no such conflicting feelings over the work of the final artist Liadin Cooke . Her work is an absolute riot of colour and above all texture. Her work could not be called attractive but it packs an emotional punch even though sadly one can't heft the weight or feel the complex surfaces (or even take photos). With my background in traditional textile skills I was particularly drawn to her piece 'Miserable Object' inspired by an unusual embroidered sampler in the V&A. The latter records the sad life of its maker and her eventual redemption. Cooke's work is a series of wobbly parallel lines 'drawn' horizontally across a white background using red wax. The lines are like the readout from a heart monitor - almost flatlining but with just the tiniest flutter as the artist's hand wavers across the canvas. I saw in the piece all those endless lines of embroidery stitched by all those faceless Victorian women whose fate was to be as forgotten as Middlemarch's heroine.

Having called Cooke's work unattractive I should make an exception for the work hanging next to 'Miserable Object' whose title I failed to note. It consisted of a dark, smoky rectangle of crushed nettle leaves with a single pearl set into it slightly off centre. Simple, beautiful and intensly mysterious. Her unfinished piece 'Some Particular Place' lay nearby and couldn't have been more different. A really large lump of unfired clay, pummeled and shaped into a mass of chaotic spikes, whorls and crevices then sprayed with car paint in a rather nasty shade of metallic purple, it sat and brooded behind a protective screen like a malevolent sea creature. It will be fascinating to see how it changes over time as it slowly dries, maybe it even moved a bit while my back was turned, I wouldn't be surprised.

I am really looking forward to a return visit to the show now it is fully open. I am sure I will begin to see lots that I missed during this first brief look. The winner of the Northern Art Prize will be announced on 19 January 2012. We all disagreed about who we thought should win. My choice on the night was Richard Rigg, but having written this blog I'm not quite so sure anymore....!

Social media types engaging with art!
Thanks again to The Culture Vulture for the invite and to Sarah Brown and Leeds Art Gallery for hosting us. The Northern Art Prize exhibition continues until 19 February 2012. Visit the Leeds Art Gallery website for opening times.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Northern Freeze Show, Mill Bridge Gallery, Skipton 11 November 2011

Mill Bridge Gallery is Skipton's newest art venue, specialising in art photography and sculpture. Having been to their wonderful opening night in September it was lovely to be invited back to see their new winter-themed exhibition. The gallery is worth a visit for the building alone - a gorgeous late medieval structure, once an outbuilding or kitchen for a grander house on Skipton's High Street now long since demolished. The gallery's owners have done a marvelous job restoring it and the whitewashed walls and dark timber showed off the icy, snowy photos on display to perfection.

View from gallery garden
In an age when almost all the photos we see are digital, snapped on our mobile phones or compact cameras, it is a salutory experience to spend time with large format, pin-sharp prints. Tony Crossland's bleak snowy views of Ingleborough from the Turbary Road really brought this home. Every fragment of limestone was etched in the sharpest monochrome, while the blasted white slopes of the mountain stood out superbly against a faintly pink tinged sky. Daniel Shiel's pieces consisted of fascinating studies of frozen water. Some explored the swirling textures formed as the water solidified, others carried the shimmering reflections of unseen objects just out of shot. One particularly affecting picture showed the reflection of a bare winter tree which seemed to be trying to gather up armfuls of the dead leaves fallen and frozen into the water's surface.

Snow must be one of the hardest subjects to photograph given its lack of colour so it was interesting to see how the various artists had tackled it.I wondered if Brett Meikle had used lights and filters to produce his shot of a startling white sculptured snow drift set against a darkening evening sky of the deepest indigo and turquoise. Keith Craven's photograph Malham Tree looks rather ethereal set among the frosty grass but a closer look and the branches look rather odd  almost like streaks of electricity seared across the sky. The image is then reproduced on sheets of brushed aluminium which magnifies this rather magical effect.

At the preview
Another magical photo was friend Mark Butler's Cow Close Waterfall with its close up imagery of spray and  icicles and bright green moss. A reminder that winter can strike fast even before the summer seems to be over. Henry Meyer's black and white photos dating to the l940s and 50s record winters how they used to be. The one that lingers in my memory  was Blizzard taken in 1952 and showing a solitary figure hunched against the wind, trudging across a blurry snowy field. I felt cold just looking at it!

Alongside the winter photos are an excellent selection of other photographs, ceramics and sculptures some of the latter on show in the gallery's delightful garden overlooking the canal at the back. Do pay the show a visit if you find yourself in town, it's well worth supporting such a brave new venture.

The Mill Bridge Gallery is open Wed – Sat 10.30am – 6pm, other times by appointment.